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New White House Initiative Focuses on Data to Cut Prison Populations

The White House launched a new initiative to encourage communities around the country to use data sharing and analytics in an effort to cut prison populations.

“As we’ve engaged with state and local leaders, we’ve found there are so many people who simply don't need to be in our jails,” said Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Barack Obama. “There are so many more important priorities where we can invest instead.”

The “Data-Driven Justice Initiative” is a partnership with seven states and 60 municipalities. Multiple federal agencies and tech companies, such as Amazon Web Services and Esri, will work with these localities to help enhance their current data-sharing and analytics efforts.

The new initiative, noted Lynn Overmann, a senior policy adviser to U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, is about bridging the gap between criminal justice-focused agencies and health agencies to begin data-sharing. Federal agencies and tech companies will take the lead in forging these relationships to help agencies move people into treatment programs for substance abuse or mental health facilities rather than prisons.

“We can’t arrest ourselves out of these problems, there have to be other approaches,” said David Rausch, chief of police for Knoxville, Tennessee.  “There’s almost nothing more frustrating to a police officer than seeing someone who clearly needs help and seeing the only options available are emergency rooms or jail.”

Meanwhile, Jarrett is optimistic about the potential growth of the program.

“We hope to pass 100 partners in this before the end of the year,” Jarrett said. “But the sky is really the limit.”

Posted in General News

Tags: funding for criminal justice reform, prison

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